COVID-19 hits family, jail population hard

Two members of the same family have died as the result of COVID-19, Hays County officials announced on Monday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 10. Both the father, in his 70s, and the son, in his 50s, live in San Marcos. As of Monday, the county had seen more than 3,190 confirmed cases, of which more than 2,600 were still active.

A day later, county commissioners heard scathing reports of inmates in the county jail not wearing masks even as 60 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed among its population as well as 10 cases in correctional officers.

“If you don’t know someone affected, count yourself the lucky one,” County Judge Ruben Becerra said in remarks before the jail report. “It’s personal for many of us and it is a very big deal … The sad reality is we’re not getting any better — we’re going backward and getting worse. I fear what the Fourth of July will bring forth in the next few days.

Regarding the jail, Capt. Julie Villalpando said staff is “doing everything we can” to adhere to CDC guidelines and trying to convince inmates to do the same – without much success. She called on attorneys and families of inmates to reach out to them and stress the importance of following protocol if the spread of the infection is to be stopped.

Villalpando said incoming arrestees are screened and all inmates are monitored for symptoms “several times a day.” Separate “housing units” have been set up for groups of inmates that are positive, negative, are high risk or fall into other specified categories, although the facility has reached its “maximum capacity” for those separations.

In-person visitation has been suspended but Villalpando said the company that provides telephone service now allows two free 10-minutes phone calls per week to each inmate. Inmates are issued masks on arrival and once weekly thereafter or as requested, and are given cleaning materials to use to augment regular sanitation by correctional staff.

Additionally, educational materials on the CDC guidelines are placed throughout the jail.

She said the coronavirus has also affected staffing as correctional officers who test positive are forced to quarantine; and also that some counties which currently house Hays inmates are having to cut down on those numbers because their own facilities are seeing staff shortages.

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